The song writer's story is quite intriguing. A beatnik poet who was born in Brooklyn, eden ahbez, convinced Nat King Cole's manager to bring his tune "Nature Boy" to Cole's attention. (ahbez chose to spell his name with lowercase letters because only God’s name is worthy of capitalization, he said.)
Cole immediately took to the tune and included it in his repertoire. He wanted to record the well-received song but had trouble finding its writer to get the publishing rights. Nat and his manager finally found ahbez—-he was camped out beneath the famous “Hollywood” sign in California. Cole’s version of "Nature Boy" made it to #1 on the Billboard charts in 1948 for eight weeks straight.
Yiddish composer Herman Yablakoff--who claimed that the melody from one of his songs, "Sveig Mein Hartz" (Be Still My Heart), was also the melody for "Nature Boy"--sued Ahbez. The song does, indeed, have that klezmer feel to it. The case was eventually settled out of court.
According to a Web site called Song Facts, Ahbez wanted to correct the tag line of the song. He decided that "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return," was not really what he wanted to say at all, since "to be loved in return" has nothing to do with love, he said. He wanted the last line to be, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love, just to love, and be loved."
Words and Music by eden ahbez
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"